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Cheena
Spend The Night With... Noel Gardner , August 17th, 2016 18:14

Between them, the five members of Cheena have committed a solid body of non-Cheena work to tape. Little if any of it suggested they might form the kind of band who would title their debut album Spend The Night With..., and fill it with half an hour of half-cut, slobbery, lascivious blooze-glam to match. They seem to be pushing the line that these eleven songs shake with the very essence of New York, their home city; perhaps this is aurally evident to residents. If I was one, maybe I would also hear the sound of the Big, Extremely Expensive Apple reflected in Crazy Spirit’s dumpster-diving hardcore screech, Anasazi’s dystopian goth-punk or Pharmakon’s septic noise symphonies – those being just some of the acts whose members have converged in Cheena.

They’ve also stated that this music serves as an opportunity for respite, by virtue of not being howlingly intense, played at 200mph or an ignition for moshpits which cause bruises and boo-boos in abundance. Spend The Night With... certainly sounds raucous: synesthetes ought to be fair clobbered by the aroma of sweat, canned beer foam and unscrubbable basement-venue grime that these songs conjure up. ‘Cry For Help’, which opens the album, is probably its most stompingly punk moment: anyone familiar with Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, guitarist Logan Montana’s other band, could be forgiven for thinking this a run-on from that group’s whackjob garage racket.

In short time, though, Cheena tone down the PUNK and crank up the ROCK, thanks in no small part to Montana himself: his slide guitar, an impolite horndog whine, sprays itself all over the LP, adding an extra downhome quality to songs like ‘Jane’ and ‘Lost My Way’. (Anyone who’s been checking for Cheena since their 2014 debut tape will recognise it from numbers like the terrific ‘My Hand Is Shakin’’.) The other guitarist, Margaret Chardiet – aka noise soloist Pharmakon, and the quintet’s most recognisable member – initially conceived of Cheena as a hardcore project; while that didn’t materialise, she still chips in ample powerchord chomp and glam/punk stomp. On the sub-two-minute ‘Fever’, a New York Dolls-y stumble has its oddball factor amplified by the hefty swathes of reverb added to Walker Behl’s vocals.

As frontman in Crazy Spirit, Behl sounds suitably deranged, like a man-sized cockroach who learned not only to speak, but to air grievances. In Cheena, he’s far more palatable, if far from crystal clear – a zonked drawl that recalls Neil Hagerty, Kim Salmon and Mick Jagger, had Mick Jagger managed to fuck himself up enough that he ceased being a hard-nosed professional. Helpfully, the music Behl sings over echoes Royal Trux (‘Lost My Way’), The Scientists (‘Car’) and early-70s Stones (‘Electric Snoopy Gang’, comfortably the album’s longest track at five and a half minutes) at various points too. ‘Tarzan’, complete with jump-out lyric “I think I’m just a speedfreak,” combines a cowpunk sneer with a hardcore-ish backbeat – Eugene Terry, also of Crazy Spirit, is responsible for that – in a manner that has me mulling the unfettered Texan excellence of The Dicks.

Even at its fastest and noisiest, though, Spend The Night With... doesn’t feel like a remotely appropriate soundtrack to fucking up shit in the pit. Rather, it’s evocative of everything else that pisses venue security off: OTT mutual groping, unlawful narcotic liveners (I wouldn’t presume to know Cheena’s own tastes in this department, but they look wrecked on their album cover), the overwhelming feeling that everyone in the room apart from them is having a blast. A dark heart beats at the core of this album, much as it did with all of the influential bands mentioned in this review, but its creators have proved themselves to be dabber hands at good time rock’n’roll than most of their previous ventures indicated.

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